Leaders of 'Jewish Taliban' Sect Arrested in FBI-Interpol Operation in Mexico

Five leaders of the radical ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor group have been nabbed; sect has faced allegations of kidnapping, child abuse and sexual abuse

FILE PHOTO: A woman and a child of a Jewish community are seen at their home as they prepare to leave the village of San Juan La Laguna, August 2014.
Jorge Lopez / REUTERS

Five leaders of Lev Tahor, a fringe ultra-Orthodox sect, were arrested in Mexico.

Their arrest was a joint operation between Interpol and the FBI, Yeshiva World News reported on Wednesday. The group has faced allegations of kidnapping, sexual abuse and child abuse.

Among those arrested are Nachman Helbrans, the son of former sect leader Shlomo Helbrans, who drowned in Mexico in 2017. Nachman Helbrans, who now leads Lev Tahor, is reported to be even more radical and aggressive than his father, according to YWN.

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The group was accused last week of kidnapping two children, who the New York Post on Wednesday reported were the children of the founder’s daughter, Sara Helbrans. The children were attending a therapeutic event with other escapees from the sect. Sara Helbrans fled the sect on Oct. 5 with three of her six children. The three others were discovered and returned to her 10 days later. On Saturday, Dec. 8, her two teenage children, Yante and Chaim, who remain loyal to the sect, disappeared from the event in the Catskills.

Lev Tahor, which has about 230 members, relocated to Guatemala from Canada in 2014 following allegations of mistreatment of its children including abuse and child marriages.

It moved in 2016 from the outskirts of Guatemala City to Oratorio, a village 30 miles east of Guatemala City, after religious disputes with its neighbors, and reportedly crossed the border from Guatemala to Mexico in June 2017. It may have returned later to Guatemala.

Arranged marriages between teenagers and older cult members are reported to be common. The group shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed. It also rejects the State of Israel, saying the Jewish nation can only be restored by God, not humankind.